Elements of CoderDojo
It involves numerous elements. One is happy enthusiasm – this is great for learning – and if you are figuring stuff out with your friends, that is also really powerful. Another is ‘learning by doing’, which is so much more effective than learning theory without practice. The formula becomes even more powerful if you add little boosts, mixing in encouragement and some show and tell, and Coolest Projects is one of the coolest ways to show and tell.
Best of all you can mix these elements for no cost, you just need to think it through and plan the environment in which the learning is going to happen. The first step is to relax. Too much weight is given to discipline and obedience these days – I suspect because too little attention has been given to making learning fun, interesting and creative. In a more relaxed atmosphere it’s much easier to get people to engage with the kind of tasks that constitute learning by doing. Sure, there is a need for discipline, but that discipline must come from within each learner – it does not work to discipline from without. And that needs inspiration.
Inspiration to learn
Inspiration is the engine of learning at CoderDojo. If you want to get people to put in the time and effort so they can get into the state of deep learning and practice, you need to inspire them to care enough about something such that they really want to work at learning and to enjoy that. If someone does not feel inspired to care enough, then they will do a poor job of learning, no matter how the learning is facilitated.
Environment of equals = more join in
You can, of course, force education upon people – and for simple things that can be effective. It is easy to memorise enough to pass a test, but it is much harder to apply wisdom to solve a real world problem. And when the focus is on discipline and pushing knowledge into a person then the educator tends to dominate. Few people thrive at the whim of another and it is very easy to crush passion, motivation and enthusiasm with dominance, even with all good intention. How do we create a better dynamic for learning? We create an environment of equals with a common purpose – in this case “We are here to get good at coding and to have fun doing that together” – with the relaxed but firm rule “One Rule; Be Cool!” where there is permission to play. In this environment for optimum learning, true learning emerges continuously in the participants who choose to be there. So powerful and infectious can this well constructed context be that even those who start out reluctant may be inspired to join in.
Recognition and acknowledgment are the final powerful motivators – for in our hearts we all seek the reassurance that we have done a good job. Coolest Projects is wonderful way in which the fruits of the hard work of learning by doing and creating can be made visible to a wide audience, and where all who participate can be acknowledged and where the most dedicated can shine.
So enter or visit Coolest Projects on the 13th of June at the RDS, Dublin to celebrate the learning, inspiration and dedication of our young coders!